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Speech act
A. Definition

1. Wikipedia
A speech act in linguistics and the philosophy of language is an utterance that has
performative function in language and communication.

2. www-01.sil.org
A speech act is an act that a speaker performs when making an utterance,
including the following:

a. A general act (illocutionary act) that a speaker performs, analyzable as


o the uttering of words (utterance acts)

o making reference and predicating (propositional acts), and

o a particular intention in making the utterance (illocutionary force)

b. An act involved in the illocutionary act, including utterance acts and

propositional acts
c. The production of a particular effect in the addressee (perlocutionary act)

3. www.carla.umn.edu
We perform speech acts when we offer an apology, greeting, request, complaint,
invitation, compliment, or refusal. A speech act is an utterance that serves a function in

4. plato.stanford.edu
Speech acts are a staple of everyday communicative life, but only became a topic of
sustained investigation, at least in the English-speaking world, in the middle of the
Twentieth Century.

5. grammar.about.com

In linguistics, an utterance defined in terms of a speaker's intention and the effect it has
on a listener.

6. instructional1.calstatela.edu
A speech act is a minimal functional unit in human communication. Just as a word
(refusal) is the smallest free form found in language and a morpheme is the smallest unit
of language that carries information about meaning (-al in refuse-al makes it a noun), the
basic unit of communication is a speech act (the speech act of refusal).

7. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

An act that is performed by making an utterance, as the issuing of a warning, the

making of a promise, or the giving of a greeting.

8. Collins English Dictionary Complete and Unabridged

1. (Philosophy / Logic) an utterance that constitutes some act in addition to the

mere act of uttering

2. (Philosophy) an act or type of act capable of being so performed.

9. dictionary.reference.com

any of the acts that may be performed by a speaker in making an utterance, as

stating, asking, requesting, advising, warning, or persuading, considered in terms
of the content of the message, the intention of the speaker, and the effect on the

10. world english dictionary

1. An utterance that constitutes some act in addition to the mere act of uttering

2. An act or type of act capable of being so performed

B. Arguments

Speech act is the use of language to perform some act. Speaker performs speech act
when giving warning, apologizing, offering something, advising, requesting, asking, greeting,

persuading, complaining, and making promise. It may give effects for listeners to do
something or making act caused by the utterance from the speaker. So, speaker gives such a
direct or indirect instruction to listeners.

Speech act has several types, they are:

1. Common speech act (greeting, asking complaining)

2. Based on meaning (propositional meaning, Illocutionary meaning, Perlocutionary


3. Explicit and implicite performative

4. Based on function (Representatives, directives, commissives, expressives, declarations)

5. Felicity conditions (preparatory, propositional content, sincerity, essential)

C. Examples

Common speech acts:

Greeting: "Hi, Eric. How are things going?"

Request: "Could you pass me the mashed potatoes, please?"

Complaint: "Ive already been waiting three weeks for the computer, and I was told it
would be delivered within a week."

Invitation: "Were having some people over Saturday evening and wanted to know if youd
like to join us."

Compliment: "Hey, I really like your tie!"

Refusal: "Oh, Id love to see that movie with you but this Friday just isnt going to work."

The specifics example:

A. Based on meaning:

According to Austin's theory (1962), what we say has three kinds of meaning:

1. Propositional meaning - the literal meaning of what is said

My pen is lost.

Its very noisy

It's hot in here.

2. Illocutionary meaning - the social function of what is said

'It's hot in here'

Its very noisy

My pen is lost.

Could be:

- The indirect requests for someone to open the window / to decrease TV

volume/ to look for the pen.

- The indirect refusals to close the window because someone is cold/ to

decrease the volume because someone is sick, to look for the pen is because
its missing.

- The complaints implying that someone should know better than to keep the
windows closed (expressed emphatically) /better to decrease the TV
volume/better to look for the pen.

3. Perlocutionary meaning - the effect of what is said

'It's hot in here' could result in someone opening the windows

Its very noisy could result in someone turning on TV volume too loud

My pen is lost could result in someone forgetting to give back the pen after


A. Austin focused on a type of speech act that he called a PERFORMATIVE.

Here are examples of performative sentences:

I tell you the girl is mine

I declare my independence cant be bought.

I bet you five bucks Chelsea will lose.

I promise never to smoke anymore.

As of time being, you are fired.

a. Explicit and implicit performatives:

E: Bring this book!

I: I hereby order you that you bring this book.

C. Based on function

Based on Austin's (1962), and Searle's (1969) theory, Cohen (1996) identifies five categories
of speech acts based on the functions assigned to them:

1. Representatives.
- I have seen that movie once
- I didnt take this class last week
- I couldnt agree more with your words.

2. Directives.
- Please bring your book tomorrow
- It would be nice if you text her first
- Could you open the window?
3. Commissives.
- I will take care of you
- Do you want a little sugar?
- Do you mind if I help you?
4. Expressives.
- How nice your car
- You did well at this class
- Sorry to hear you failed on that job interview.
5. Declarations
- We know this problem is hard to be solved.
- I find myself making mistake.
- She realises that her decision is too early.

Searle classified speech acts in term of FELICITY CONDITIONS. There are 4 types of felicity

1. Preparatory.
For example, for a request, the hearer has to be capable of performing the request.
2. Propositional content.
For example, for the yes-no question Is it raining?, the propositional content is Its raining.
For the information question What are you eating? the propositional content is Youre eating
3. Sincerity.
For example, if I ask you what time it is, that question satisfies the sincerity condition only if
I actually want to know the answer.
4. Essential.
For example, an undertaking by the speaker that she will be home on time.









The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

Collins English Dictionary Complete and Unabridged